Glendale City Council Set To Vote On Sales Tax Extension

June 16, 2014

Photo by Steve Shadley - KJZZ
Glendale's city council is scheduled to vote on the sales tax increase extension on June 24.
Photo by Steve Shadley - KJZZ
Bill Demski describes himself as a budget hawk. He's urging city council to vote against the sales tax increase extension.

Glendale officials want to extend the city's sales tax increase to rescue it from financial disaster. They'll use the revenue to pay off a mountain of debt created partly when the city invested in pro sports. The move comes right after the Glendale City Council passed a budget that cuts millions in spending without eliminating services.

Before the recession, Glendale was enjoying a period of financial stability. That's when the city council started spending tax dollars on sports venues in hopes of generating revenue. 

"We were changing the city from a bedroom community to a sports and entertainment destination area," Glendale Vice Mayor Yvonne Knaack said.

Knaack wasn't elected to the council until 2007, when the city was spending without seeing the crisis ahead.

"And, really the economy is what happened," Knaack said.

When the recession hit, Glendale had already made a financial commitment for construction of Camelback Ranch, the spring training home of the Los Angeles Dodgers and Chicago White Sox. Plus, the city's now on the hook to pay millions for public safety at next year's Super Bowl. And last year, the city entered into an expensive agreement to keep the Phoenix Coyotes in Arizona at Glendale's Jobing.com arena. This all puts a strain on city coffers. Now, some members of the council want to extend what was promoted as a temporary sales tax when voters passed it two years ago.

"If we don't keep that sales tax, we might have to lay off close to 50 percent of our non-sworn positions," Knaack said.

That could mean up to 500 layoffs. In 2012, Glendale's sales tax was 2.2 percent. It went up nearly a third. It's set to expire in 2017, but Glendale's finance director Tom Duensing said the city needs to keep the tax alive or the deficit will spiral out of control.

"The size of that deficit, which averages 30 million dollars after the expiration of the sales tax, is enormous compared to our total general fund budget," Duensing said.

But not all members of Glendale city council are on board. Mayor Jerry Weiers said he's worried extending the tax would break a promise the city made to Glendale voters back in 2012. And some citizens are also urging the city council to vote against the tax extension.

"It's insane what’s going on -- just keep spending money you don't have," said Bill Demski, a former city of Glendale employee. He devotes a lot of time urging city council to do more to tighten the budget. Demski also likes to scold council members for past spending on sports.

"I've never been to Camelback Ranch. I've never been to University of Phoenix Stadium. You know, I can't really afford to go. It's just a playground for the rich. Taking from the poor to give to the rich," Demski said.

Demski expects Glendale will have to file for bankruptcy. He pointed to a recent Wall Street Journal article that listed Glendale as the city with the most financial problems, right behind Detroit. Still, Glendale officials said they are looking at all options to cut spending, and they're even thinking about selling some city property including a bar and trailer court to help make ends meet.

The city council is scheduled to vote on the sales tax extension on June 24.